after making its debut earlier this year to much acclaim, siteadvisor was quickly snapped up by mcafee. the free service warns you when you visit a dangerous web site, defining "dangerous" thorough automated site analysis. it can also check all links on search results pages and flag each as green (okay), red (dangerous) or yellow (marginal). the new siteadvisor plus doesn't just wave a red warning flag; it actually blocks access to dangerous sites. the link-checking feature for search-results pages now extends to those links received through e-mail or instant messaging. and it incorporates additional protection against fraudulent (phishing) web sites using a technology also available in mcafee's total protection.View All9Photos in Gallery
saplus uses the same database and web site as the free siteadvisor; it also continues to spell out extremely detailed information about the reasons any site is marked red or yellow. for example, it will list malicious downloads hosted on the site and show exactly why they're considered malicious. if registering with a site generates a lot of spam, it'll tell you just how much and how "spammy," and will even display typical message headers. when it says a site is dangerous, it always has good reason; you really don't want to visit a red site.
a padlock icon in saplus's toolbar button lets you know that the new don't-go-there protected mode is active. you'll need your password (defined during installation) to turn it off. instead of letting you visit a dangerous site, it displays a page explaining what makes the site undesirable, with a link to more information online. mcafee deliberately omitted any simple method for bypassing this protection. should you still want to visit a site despite the warning, you must first use the password to turn off protected mode and then navigate to the site again. once there, you may choose to add the site to your personal do not warn list, so saplus will stop blocking it.
even with protected mode turned off, there's yet another layer of protection. if you try to download a known dangerous file (spyware, say, or a trojan horse), it displays a big warning and gives you a chance to reconsider. you might think of using protected mode to keep children (or employees) from visiting dangerous sites. however, at present it works only with internet explorer version 6 or 7, and, even after firefox compatibility is added, a determined teen will still be able to get around its protection by loading opera or another unsupported browser. siteadvisor's primary function is helping you avoid visiting dangerous sites—in other words, it's designed for people who want to be protected.
the free siteadvisor will optionally analyze all links on search results pages from google, msn, or yahoo! and flag them with a green, yellow, or red icon. the plus
version grays out links that will be blocked, for a visual cue. and it also checks all active links sent through popular im clients (google, microsoft, and yahoo!). it ignores safe links but inserts a red or yellow icon for dangerous ones. mcafee plans to add support for aim, for myspace's new im service, and possibly even for im aggregators such as trillian.
the link-checker feature also processes e-mail messages in microsoft outlook and outlook express, as well as web-based e-mail from google, microsoft, and yahoo! (support for aol mail is in the works). rather than risk screwing up the message layout by shoehorning the icons into it, saplus lists the suspect links in a warning box at the top of the message. the feature works fine in web-based e-mail but hits a glitch in outlook. by default, outlook suppresses images and other active content in html-based messages, and that includes the red and yellow icons. when the active content is in the message itself, outlook offers an infobar with an option to let the images through for just the current message. the saplus icons don't trigger the infobar, so you'll only see them if you crank down outlook's security. rather than lower your security i'd suggest you accept your warnings without icons, at least until mcafee can deal with this glitch.
mcafee claims that siteadvisor's database covers about 95 percent of the actual in-use "trafficked" internet. you'll still find sites with a gray "unknown" icon, and analyzing a new site can take a week or two. that's not terribly useful with phishing sites, as they appear and vanish rapidly, sometimes within the same day—they just don't stick around long enough to be analyzed. to supplement protection against such sites, saplus incorporates existing mcafee technology that detects fraud with real-time processes. i ran a quick test, comparing it with norton's phishing protection (found in norton confidential and norton internet security 2007) and ie7's built-in antiphishing. my initial sample of two dozen fresh phishing sites dwindled to 18 during the test—these sites really don't last long. nis flagged all but three, ie7 caught 12, and saplus identified only ten. however, combining the results from saplus and ie7 i found they would have identified 15 of the 18 sites—same as norton.
the free siteadvisor doesn't include on-the-spot analysis of suspected phishing pages, but paying attention to its warnings will give you almost all the protection of siteadvisor plus. is it worth two bucks a month to curb your own impulsive link-clicking . . . or your grand-mother's? download the introductory 30-day trial and decide for yourself.Back to top